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Food safety laws generally apply to most food you can touch with your hands at supermarkets - such as loose leaf spinach, bread rolls in the bakery, and anything at the deli. When handling these foods, you need to use tongs (or wear food safety gloves).

But mushrooms seem to be 'safe' for everyone to touch with their hands. There are never tongs near them (at least at any supermarket I've seen) and everyone uses their hands.

Why is this? What makes mushrooms special?

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    Mushrooms aren't any different than tomatoes or apples or heads of lettuce... Most of the stuff in the produce section doesn't have tongs... – Catija Jun 18 '16 at 13:56
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    I don't know where you are, but in the US supermarket fruits and vegetables are not packaged or covered, as it is presumed you will wash or cook them first. Only ready-to-eat foods (like sandwiches or deli foods) need to be handled with gloves. According to cooks I have seen, you are supposed to brush off mushrooms, not wash them. If you are cooking with mushrooms, it won't matter. If eating them fresh (as in a salad) you should buy packaged mushrooms. – user3169 Jun 19 '16 at 2:13
  • @Catija True, I didn't think about apples - but most other produce items are routinely peeled before being eaten/used – Tim Malone Jun 19 '16 at 2:44
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A major reason produce can be sold loose without tongs is that you're supposed to wash it just before preparing it anyway. You couldn't wash your baked goods. How effective this washing is, is of course another matter now we don't have to wash the mud off and a token rinse is probably typical.

Some produce, including mushrooms but also strawberries etc., could easily be damaged by tongs anyway.

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There isn't anything special, there is no reason they should be treated any differently than other exposed and handled foods. It's not the food that is dangerous, it's the human based disease that is spread by food handling that is the issue.

I don't advocate gloves in food handling, I advocate good hand washing. Gloves make people sloppy and I think it makes contamination worse than without.

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    The "no gloves" rule is one thing in the kitchen, it's another in the supermarket where hand washing facilities wouldn't be widely used even if they were available. – Chris H Jun 18 '16 at 18:10
  • It's doesn't change the answer in which handling row food is handling raw food no matter which part of the produce section you are in. – Escoce Jun 18 '16 at 20:08

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